Greenhouse Without Insulation

It was a weekend of milestones for me. On Saturday I finally took down most of the insulation in the greenhouse and re-installed the automatic roof vent opener. The sudden increase in light levels will, I hope, make up for the 2 to 3 C drop in temperature and spur the seedlings into even stronger growth. I went on to clear even more space for seed trays, setting up more watering trays lined with capillary matting ready for the next influx. I was so busy clearing and tidying I almost missed another milestone.

Anenome nemorosa buds

I am on near permanent “Bud Watch” at this time of year. I have an area by the compost bins under the Rowan tree that has been the focus of most of my bud watching this past week. The photograph above is of the buds of my wood anenome (Anenome nemorosa). I planted them in the first Spring we lived here, when the Rowan resembled a spindly stick more than a tree (I planted it as a bare-rooted maiden). They arrived in the post – a Guardian newspaper special offer – as three small unpromising bare-rooted plants. Ever since they have represented the true arrival of Spring for me, so when I saw that the first flowers were open I had to stop my greenhouse tidying and grab my camera.

Anenome nemorosa flower

I love the delicate papery white of the petals, and the soft yellow of the stamens. I was beginning to worry, because I hadn’t even seen the buds appearing until the middle of last week, but it looks as if I will have a carpet of white flowers to brighten the trip to the compost bins soon.

I have to be honest though, there was another plant in this area that I have been waiting for even more avidly.

Erythronium Pagoda
Erythronium Pagoda

I love the Dog’s Tooth Violet – Erythronium ‘Pagoda’. I love the soft lemon yellow, the golden streaks marking the center, the delicately backswept petals. I originally planted 5 bulbs, and three never flowered at all. The remaining two have staggered and stuttered their way into forming smallish clumps, nothing like I originally envisaged, but year on year I get more and more buds. This is definitely the best year yet, and they make my heart sing.

Erythronium Pagoda

Erythronium Pagoda

At this point I realised that over night the first of the Narcissus ‘Segovia’ bulbs that I planted last Autumn had started flowering. I don’t usually go for multi coloured narcissus, I’ve always preferred plain golden yellow, or, at a pinch, plain white. But I fell in love with these, and they haven’t disappointed.

Narcissus Segovia
Narcissus Segovia

I clearly have a bit of a ‘thing’ for backswept petals…

The first of the lovely surprises was that a flying visit from BIL and gardening SIL netted me three large pots of Primroses.


Primrose Detail

I love native primroses, but for some strange reason have never had any in my own garden, so this was a wonderful gift. They are going to stay in their pots until they have finished flowering, sat on the table where we can all enjoy them from the house. One pot will get split and potted up again, to ensure that we can take some with us when we move. The rest will be split and spread around the garden, ready to provide another Spring milestone next year.

Sunday saw FIL and I head off up to the allotment. The previous week I had planted more First Early potatoes (5 x ‘Anya’, 5 x ‘Charlotte’, 5 x ‘Lady Christl’, and 5 x ‘Swift’), but had forgotten that FIL had actually dug the bed longer than I had remembered so I added another half a dozen ‘Swift’. I’ve attempted to continue the slug pellet experiment. I say “attempted” because even with the slug pellet pot right in front of me I am far from convinced that all the seed potatoes in the “with pellets” row actually got pellets added to the hole… This from someone who originally wanted to be a pathologist, a job that requires meticulous attention to detail and adherence to methodology…

The rest of my time was spent with one sort of crop protection venture or another. The strong winds had wreaked havoc with my hose cloche, ripping the fleece cover from the framework. Somewhere in my blog reading I remembered seeing someone talk about using two pieces of fleece fastened in the middle with clothes pegs, to make access for weeding and harvesting easier. If this was you, please let me know so that I can credit you! And best do so before I visit the plot again and find the clothes pegs have pinged off…

Anyway, I re-made the cloche cover using two separate lengths of fleece and replaced the rocks that had been holding the sides down with stout plastic pegs stolen from the van awning bag.

Hose Cloche Mark 2

Next on the list was the first lot of potatoes. Sue@Green Lane Allotments had warned me about the dangers of fleece being in contact with new potato growth if there was a heavy frost. So, armed with a bunch of fancy new connectors and some bamboo from my garden, I constructed a new-style cloche to protect them but keep the fleece off the foliage.

Funky New Connectors
Cosseting The Potatoes

I was so busy constructing the cloche I almost missed another important milestone – the first signs of potato growth from the ‘Swift’ seed potatoes planted on 20th March. I was thrilled, like a little kid at Christmas, so I am sorry, but I have to include the photographic evidence:

First Potatoes

Not the most beautiful photograph I’ve ever taken, but one of the most significant!

Next on the agenda was the rhubarb. It had perked up lots after the soaking I gave it and the rich mulch of manure. To be honest, I am pretty cross with myself for what I did next. I’d been reading about the experiments in 1m square bed gardening that they have been doing on the Organic Gardening site. They used a system of plastic boards that click together to make the beds, which are made from 95% recycled plastic. In an ideal world I would construct a raised bed for the rhubarb from rescued wood. TNG even found me a wooden pallet, but the wood was too split to use, and anyway, I’m just not well enough for that kind of project right now. So I spent £20 on a 1m squsre bed to nurture my free rhubarb, making it a very expensive freebie. OK, so we will take it with us when we leave, it should last for years, and I love the idea of recyling plastic to build raised beds with. But really. What was I thinking. I’m sure the rhubarb would have been just fine with a thick mulch of manure.

Square Bed Edging Kit

It does seem to be a good product though, the pieces slot together really easily, and are anchored in place by plastic dowling – or yet more bamboo. So I now have ridiculously smart rhubarb.

New Rhubarb Bed

All this time FIL had been digging away in the background, listening to me muttering. When I finally got to the end of my tasks – which included the now compulsory weeding session – I discovered that he had delivered the final and in some ways best milestone of the weekend.

Last Bed Dug

The last bed has been dug over and is ready for planting. In a little over three months our plot has gone from this:

Allotment 2nd January 2011

to this:

Allotment View 3rd April 2011

I couldn’t have done it without him.

And the final lovely surprise? BIL and gardening SIL have given me a ticket to the Malvern Spring Show for my birthday. BIL is going to drive us and then leave gardening SIL and I to wander around to our heart’s content until we need to be picked up and collected. Probably the best birthday present I have ever had, and definitely the only way I would ever have made it there. So roll on 12th May, here we come!

48 thoughts on “Milestones and Lovely Surprises

  1. Hi Janet,

    Lovely update, I too got some native primroses this year – never been interested before, but they have proven their worth as the Bees have been visiting them when there’s little else flowering at the moment.

    Your allotment looks amazing, well done with all the work and I hope you and SIL enjoy your visit to Malvern! :D

    1. Hi Liz, one of the reasons I am thrilled to have the primroses is because I have been feeling guilty about the bees. Last year I had “perennial” wallflowers, but they died and anyway, MIL hated them. Am very excited about Malvern.

  2. You’ve been very busy Janet! I share your sentiments with the Erythronium ‘Pagoda’, it’s beautiful! Have fun at the Malvern Spring Show, and happy plant shopping whilst there :)

    1. I suspect I will have to leave my cards at home and just take a wodge of strictly counted and agreed-with-TNG cash!

  3. Great progress on the plot, Janet. A little suggestion concerning fleece and strong winds: maybe it would be better to try to make a structure with rounded edges/top, rather than square? This has less wind-resistance. Last year I bought some long flexible plastic rods from Gardening Naturally. They come with ground anchors and you bend them to the required (curved) shape/diameter. I have found them to be very good for supporting fleece and netting. I blogged about them on 4 Sept 2010 –

    1. Hi Mark, that was kind of the idea behind the hose cloche, though most of the plant “cages” people seem to use up at the plot are rectangular in cross section, which is one of the reasons I decided to give it a go. Only time will tell! Those hoops certainly look good, I’ve bookmarked the website for future reference.

  4. Gosh how busy! I too love the E. pagoda, so lovely in the woodland area and i adore the primroses too…and your allotment is looking so neat and tidy…

    1. Ah, that’s because I didn’t show the weeds, which are many and vigorous… Still, shouldn’t be as hard work as the original clearing!

  5. You have really been busy and I hope you enjoy your trip to the show in May. It was nice to have a birthday surprise. I always like primrose and purchase some each year. I wish they would come back though.

    1. Hello Donna, I’m excited about the show, I’ve never been before, but the showground is such a lovely location – I went for a VW Camper festival. Sorry primroses don’t come back for you – is it too cold?

  6. Janet I cannot keep up with you…lovely flowers and I cannot wait for some of my own. As I am writing this our rain has changed to snow with a high of too shall pass..your allotment is beautiful and that bench inviting..have fun at the show

  7. Janet, I’m constantly amazed at how much work you’ve accomplished in such a short time. I look at my own yard and think wow, how lazy am I! The allottment is a thing of beauty and I was delighted to see a new potato forming. This is what we live for in spring – all those buds and shoots. I used to have your Pagoda erythronium, it really is a beautiful plant. I was happy to see those blooms again.

    1. Hello Marguerite, the progress has been largely down to FIL and what he can achieve in a couple of hours when he starts digging. I only manage to get up there once or twice a week at the moment, which I am struggling with, I’d hoped to be able to spend half an hour most days. Glad you enjoyed ‘Pagoda’.

  8. I have wood anemones too but mine are under the magnolia – I’d love some dog’s tooth violets though. You should get quite a few primroses from those pots – it’s really generous of you to leave two pots worth in the garden.

    It is good to see the allotment transform isn’t it?

    1. Hi Sue. I can definitely see me getting more and more pasrsimonious about how many primroses I actually plant out – although I will be digging up quite a few bits and pieces when we eventually come to move. The main problem is the uncertainty – we could still be here in 18 months, in which case I’d like to enjoy the primroses in the garden. On the other hand, we may move this Autumn, in which case I don’t want to plant anything at all…

      Allotment transformation has been hugely exciting, and it is only the start of the adventure. I’ve loved every minute so far, even the waking up in the middle of the night worrying about how to arrange things or protect things!

  9. You have been so busy and doesn’t it feel good. I love your Wood Anemone. I would love to have that nice level garden area you have. My house is all hillsides. LOL! Primroses are just about the cheeriest flowers and so forgiving of the cold.

    1. Hi Lona, I am lucky having such an easy back garden to work – mind you, primroses do look rather lovely on a slope…

  10. Such a busy post, you put me to shame. I just love primroses, I have some in my garden and would like to collect seed this year, it’s best to sow the seed when fresh. You should get plenty of plants out of those tubs and still have plenty left to take with you when you move. What an achievement getting your plot looking ship shape in the time you’ve had it. You should be very proud of yourself and your father in law putting in so much work, it really does show. What a wonderful pressie, a ticket for the Malvern Show. From what I’ve seen on tv it looks a great show to go to, I wish it was closer for me. I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time. I don’t think the raised bed youv’e bought for your rhubarb to be extravagant, have you seen the price of rhubarb in the shops? It should be looked after very well as it will certainly reward you well.

    1. Hi Jo, it does rather help that I work part time and from home, so getting out and pottering in the greenhouse for an hour is a lot easier for me than it is for most! I am looking forward to splitting the primroses, and sowing green seed too, something I’ve never tried before. We’ll have to swap notes! Thank you for the kind comment about the pampered rhubarb…

  11. Wow, that is a healthy clump of Rhubarb! I’d like some virtual Rhubarb Crisp, please. ;-) I love your before and after photos. So much going on there!

  12. Wow! you have been busy. I am so impressed with your progress on the allotment. I love the Erythronium ‘Pagoda’, I would love to grow it but I think it’s too hot here.

    1. Well, there have to be some advantages to living in this climate rather than yours! I shall remind myself of that as your Perovskia leaps into bloom…

  13. A thrilling and very busy read, Janet. Feel like I’ve been digging the allotment too! Like your idea of budwatch and your sweptback violet and narcissus are surely the sophisticates of Spring. With such a hive of activity, it is good to have the help and support of your family but am impressed with all your ‘here’s one I made earlier’ cloches. The potted primroses complete the post perfectly.

    1. Hi Laura, the activity was spread out over a week or more, so less frenetic than I seem to have given the impression of! The support of FIL and the others is vital, they indulge, encourage and support me no end. I like the “sophisticates of Spring” phrase, sums them up beautifully. Pity I don’t match them ;-)

  14. Janet you are to be congratulated on all the hard work you have done to get your allotment in shape and planted. You had a vision and it is being realized beautifully.
    Love that Wood Anemone, very sweet. Isn’t it funny how you watch and watch the garden– then over night -poof! there are buds and blooms. Happy Spring!

    1. Hello Janet, thank you, it is really exciting seeing all the plotting and planning starting to take form in front of us. Now the real learning begins…

      I do sometimes feel as if the Spring garden plants delight in surprising us, as if they celebrate every time they make us jump with their sudden emergence. I’d love to do some time-lapse photography on an emerging Spring garden some time.

  15. What a wonderful birthday present! Visiting Malvern will be a wonderful treat and a well-deserved break from all your hard work. The allotment looks great, and that rhubarb looks happy to be in its fancy new home. Beautiful photos of the Dog Tooth’s violet!

    1. Hello Rose, I definitely think our rhubarb would win “smartest on the plot”! Will have to take a very careful plant list to Malvern and exercise all my restraint or TNG will forbid anyone to buy me a ticket for such an event ever again! Can’t wait…

  16. Wow, what a difference on the allotment! And that’s going to be one very happy rhubarb, in such a sturdy bed. :-)
    The native primroses are lovely – we were lucky enough to inherit quite a few when we came to this garden – and they’re surviving the devastation so far! A wonderful gift. I hope you have a fantastic time at the spring show, sadly it clashes with a friend’s wedding weekend so it’s highly doubtful we’ll make it as we’d hoped… ah well, there’s always the autumn one!
    Hats off to all your in laws for their help on and off the allotment. What a wonderful support team you have! Some lovely spring blooms there too.

    1. Hi Sara. Shame we won’t get to meet up at Malvern, but wedding trumps garden show any day – if you want to stay friends ;-) How wonderful that your primroses have survived The Great Works – they will enjoy having a “proper” place I’m sure. The rhubarb is trying to flower, which I am attempting to stop, but it looks a lot happier now.

  17. Fantastic post – love the flowers that snuck up on you when you weren’t looking, I’m impressed with your new and improved fleece protection .. and fancy rhubarb bed .. and amazed at the change on your plot since you started – it looks great. I’m also delighted about your birthday present – take a few pics for us if you can. I’m sure you’ll have a fabulous day.

    1. I think I can safely promise to take “a few pics” – the challenge will be to winnow them down and then work out what to post about an event that so many, many others will also be posting about! Am still waiting for the next big wind to test the latest crop protection experiments, and I have a new one to blog about now too… I love the way plants sneak up on us at this time of year. Hope you are getting to enjoy the Spring in between house building.

  18. Janet … how wonderful! You’ve been so busy – and the dark lush green in your photos is heartwarming. I just love Spring!!! :)

    1. Hi Shyrlene, I think – no, I know – that Spring and Autumn are my favourite seasons, I love the transitions.

  19. I love the first little peak you get of potatoes pushing through the soil. Photos are always a bit naff until there’s a bit more green for the camera to zone in on. We only planted our spuds this afternoon so a bit longer before we get to see those first sightings.
    Have a terrific time at the Malvern Show. I’ve never been but a colleague says it’s fab. She prefers it to Chelsea (whatever that means)

    1. I can’t imagine ever going to Chelsea, you can’t buy the plants and it is crammed! But I have friends who love it and go every year… I am an RHS show virgin, so am excited but not quite sure what to expect…

  20. What an impressive plot – before and after shots always make the hard work seem more worth it (!) as, of course, do those lovely spud sprouts. (I am going to go and shout at mine now, not a hint.)

    Seriously, I am very envious indeed of your wood anemones. They are beautiful…

    1. Hi Kate, I think the anenomes were one of the best things I ever did in my first couple of years as a “gardener”. Am now feeling slightly guilty about having growth on my potatoes… Hope your shouting shames them into a spurt!

  21. Oh my goodness, I started out with greenhouse envy (ours is on it’s way, and should be installed in a few weeks, but I’m impatient), and ended with oast house (?) envy! I assume that’s what the building is in your last shots? I miss some of the old buildings I used to see when I lived in England. California architecture is dull in comparison. Back to the garden though, your Erythronium are so elegant, and your rhubarb is much more spoiled than ours! Looks like you’ll have a great crop though. Congrats on the Malvern tickets, I always have to visit the show virtually through the blogs of others, but always wish I could be there in person.

  22. Sorry about the greenhouse envy, I suffered from it myself for many years, having your own is even better than you imagine, so you will soon be a very happy bunny! Its not actually an Oust house, though I can understand why you would think so – it is one of a series of air vents for the railway tunnel that runs underneath part of the village. I often find I am weeding to the sounds of a passing train, it makes that underground kind of whisper you get, I love it.

  23. Hi Janet, I love the look of your Anenome nemorosa and makes me wonder why we have always gone for blanda. I particulary like the look of your Erythronium Pagoda which is also in full bloom in our garden.

    1. Hi Alistair, that’s funny, I’ve only just discovered ‘blanda’ and can’t think why I didn’t plant lots years ago! Though I love both, and I think would always want the native nemerosa just for the association with spring walks in the woods.

  24. I envy your abilitiy to grow rhubarb, it struggles here in southern heat, but I love it. My mom always made a slightly tart pie with it that included a sugared crust.

    1. Hi Les, I suppose it really is a cold climate plant, never really thought about it. I suppose it makes it expensive to buy in the shops too. I am planning a crumble as soon as I can convince myself it is OK to pull a few stalks…

  25. Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ is on my wish list ~ what a beauty ~ your plants look most happy. I can only echo what Sue said about fleece being in contact with potato foliage should frost descend. You have made a good move devising a special cloche for them. May bump into you at Malvern :)

    1. Hi Anna, would be great to meet you at Malvern if we manage to coincide! The potatoes seem happy in their new home, I was grateful for the warning – the things I don’t know would fill several large tomes… ‘Pagoda’ is stunning, though I have been disappointed at how little it has spread. Definitely on the list for the next garden, assuming there is somewhere suitable for them.

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